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3 job seeking tips from an L&D hiring manager

"I can get hundreds of applicants for a single job – and if you can’t show me, easily and readily – the type of work you have done in the past, I can look at the next 99 candidates who will."

Several weeks ago I wrote some observations for job seekers after reviewing 50 L&D manager job descriptions. In today’s post, Mary Cropp, Director of Training and Development at Bluetooth SIG, writes this guest post to share some very blunt advice for anyone looking to land their next role on an L&D team.

Job-seeking advice from an L&D Director

Mary Cropp - Head ShotAs the hiring manager and in-house consultant for all things L&D within my organization, I am choosy about who will be on my team and who will be providing contract work for the organization. Choosy? Make that very choosy. If I lift the veil for a moment on hiring practices within the L&D realm, I want to prepare all you facilitators, trainers, and instructional designers out there with a bit of what a hiring manager looks for in a candidate.  

You need a portfolio

Over and over, the number one mistake I see from L&D candidates is that they don’t have a portfolio of work at the ready. I can get hundreds of applicants for a single job – and if you can’t show me, easily and readily – the type of work you have done in the past, I can look at the next 99 candidates who will. Nor will I wait around until you assemble something.  (I will also ask you to do a quick design or facilitation challenge during an interview, but that’s assuming that you get that far. No portfolio means that you won’t get an interview, no matter how skilled a trainer you are.) If you do nothing else after reading this blog post, start building your portfolio.

Start today.

I think the assumption used to be that the only folks within L&D that needed a portfolio were virtual learning designers. I am here to tell you: nuh uh. I want to see examples of work for all training modalities. This is the absolute minimum investment to make in your career.

Your samples need to be legit

So, now that you’ve grabbed your chai latte and carved out some time to work on your portfolio, make sure you are sharing the right things, and legitimately. Repeat after me: anything you have created for your employer or client is owned by said employer or client, not you. Don’t share this content unless you have gotten written permission to do so. Otherwise, you will either need to create new stuff altogether, provide it in a case study format (that is, talk about it, but don’t provide any content) or strip out all content and logos and replace with generic lorem ipsum. If you are stumped for ideas on building content pieces, look to Go Design Something for some inspiration.

Don’t be a Luddite

Finally, please stay current with the research within our industry. If you are passionately espousing the need to design for learning styles, or telling me in an interview that humans now have the attention span of a goldfish, I will know you are not keeping up. L&D is also rife with so-called “studies” or white papers that (surprise!) conflate correlation and causation, or are the bright, shiny object of the moment in the industry but without any basis in fact.  Clark N. Quinn, Patti Shank and Will Thalheimer are three great examples of leaders in our field who have taken the science of learning and applied it to workplace learning. They challenge some of the sacred ideas of our industry and push us to find peer-reviewed, evidence-based solutions to challenges. Be sure to be familiar with their work and stay up to date to become the best candidate for that next job.

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